Christopher Tappin to be sentenced in US over arms case

Christopher Tappin
Image caption Christopher Tappin was extradited to the US last year

A retired British businessman who pleaded guilty to arms dealing in a US court will be sentenced later in Texas.

Christopher Tappin, 66, was extradited to the US last February and entered his plea at a hearing in El Paso, Texas, in an agreement with prosecutors.

He faces a 33-month jail term, which prosecutors have said they would not oppose him serving in the UK.

Tappin, from Orpington, south-east London, had previously denied trying to sell missile batteries to Iran.

The former director of Surrey-based Brooklands International Freight Services had pleaded not guilty to attempting to sell batteries for surface-to-air missiles that were to be shipped from the US to Tehran via the Netherlands, saying he was the victim of an FBI sting.

He later admitted the charge following a plea bargain with US prosecutors.

Tappin had faced up to 35 years in jail.

The case followed an investigation which began in 2005 when US agents asked technology providers about buyers who might have caused suspicion.

Those customers were then approached by undercover companies set up by government agencies.

Image caption Mrs Tappin hopes to have her husband back on "home soil"

Briton Robert Gibson, an associate of Tappin who agreed to co-operate, was jailed for 24 months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to export defence articles.

Gibson provided customs agents with about 16,000 computer files and emails indicating that he and Tappin had long-standing commercial ties with Iranian customers.

American Robert Caldwell was found guilty of aiding and abetting the illegal transport of defence articles and served 20 months in prison.

Speaking after Tappin's guilty plea, his wife of 30 years Elaine, 62, said it was the "beginning of the end" of the family's ordeal, and that she hoped he would be back on home soil.

Tappin is the principal carer for his wife, who has the chronic lung condition Churg-Strauss syndrome.

Plea bargaining is common in the US, with defendants often able to secure a more lenient sentence if they admit an offence and co-operate with prosecutors, rather than contest the charges in a trial.

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